"My Precious Loulie...":
Love letters of the Civil War
When he wasn't marching, fighting, or setting up camp, the Civil War soldier might take a few moments to write to his loved ones at home. These letters often contain accounts of battles, life in camp, and general news. But many soldiers, as they marched off to face the enemy, had left behind a wife or sweetheart, and to them they would compose sweet, poignant, and occasionally funny letters that give life and personality to the participants in this great national conflict.
The Special Collections Department holds many Civil War era (1861-1865) manuscript collections, several of which include letters written by soldiers to their loves, and a few from the ladies to their soldiers. These letters show their sorrows of being apart, fears that the soldier would not return home, and hopes for the future after the war's end.
The letters displayed here portray many sides of the soldier in love. On a slow Sunday at Brandy Station in November 1863, Confederate surgeon Harvey Black wrote his wife Mollie, lovingly recounting how he fell in love with her at first sight and about their courtship. Daniel Blain writes from camp near Petersburg in August 1864 to his future wife Loulie about his being obligated to call on young ladies at a nearby farm, but that he would be thinking all the time "if it was just my darling Loulie how different it wd be." And William Henry Ruse writes to Maggie in Adamsville, Ohio, of how funny it would be if their letters spoke to each other as they passed on the road.
Some of the letters are comical, as is the letter from an unknown soldier to a woman who evidently answered his "lonely-hearts" advertisement, or from another soldier to a friend asking her to tell any local "good-looking amiable young Lady" what he wished to marry when he returns from the war.
Letter written by J. C. Morris in camp near Lanjer, Arkansas, on May 10, 1863, to his wife Amanda . Morris was in the 21st Texas Cavalry, Company F. Ms1992-013.
Letter from William F. Testerman , on Remembrance stationery, to Miss Jane Davis . Testerman was a first lieutenant in Company C of the 8thTennessee Cavalry. He wrote the letter from Gallatin, Tennesee. Ms1989-099.
Letter from Harvey Black in Brandy Station, Virginia. Black, descended from the founding family of Blacksburg, Virginia, served as a surgeon to the Army of Northern Virginia. In this letter to his wife Mary (whom he affectionately nicknamed Mollie) he recounts their courtship and expresses the great love he has for her. Ms1974-003 Box 1:5-1:39.
Letter froman unknown Union soldier, in the 11th New York Battery, writing February 9, 1864. This letter to "Hattie" was written after she responded to his advertisement in a "lonely-hearts" magazine. Ms1991-068.
Letter from Daniel Blain , a Confederate soldier in the 1st Rockbridge Artillery of Virginia, to Loulie , who later became his wife. In this letter Blain cautions Loulie to stop flirting with a widower for fear he will get the wrong impression of her feelings. After the war Blain became a Presbyterian minister and high school principal in Rockbridge County. Ms1990-002.
Letter from William Henry Ruse of the 97th Ohio Volunteer Regiment to Maggie Stewart of Adamsville, Ohio. Ruse writes from a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as an orderly. Ms1989-068.
Letter froman unknown soldier writing from Nashville, Tennessee, to his friend Ettie . He writes that he wants to get married when he returns home from army life and asks her to tell any good-looking, amiable young women she knows that he is available. Ms1989-071.
View other exhibits from Special Collections
Gail McMillan, Director, Digital Library and Archives